Latter-day Black Pioneers

On 4 February 2006 the Reno Gazette-Journal carried an article about a black couple in the Mormon Church, Moons become pioneers of local Mormon church, by Geralda Miller.

The story is about Bill and Jane Moon, African Americans who moved to Reno in 1969 only to find a community filled with racial prejudice. They spent the next ten years involved at Second Baptist Church, a black church that provided them friendship and relief from daily discrimination.

In 1979, when the mood of the country had changed, Bill got restless and began looking for a church that was not segregated. He and Jane ended up at the LDS Church, where they remain today.

Bill told the Gazette-Journal,

“I know when we joined [the Mormon Church] people always said that the church was prejudiced against blacks but we wanted to find out for ourselves if that was true. And we found that not to be the truth. No one ever called us the big ‘N’ or anything like that.”

For a point of reference, keep in mind that it was in June of 1978 that the LDS Church extended full membership privileges to people of African descent. Before this date blacks were not allowed to hold the LDS priesthood, nor were they allowed to enter LDS temples. Since temple ordinances are necessary for Mormons to reach a higher level of heaven, keeping blacks out of the temple was equivalent to keeping them out of the Celestial kingdom.

But when Bill and Jane joined the LDS Church things were different. So Bill is now a Mormon elder, has served as a high priest, and even spent five years on his stake’s High Council. About his High Council calling Bill said,

“I am the only black who has served in that capacity in this area. I don’t know of any others that have served. We are pioneers with the church.”

Bill is also pleased that he and Jane can go to the Reno Nevada Temple. He said,

“A lot of them have never seen a black person go to the temple because you have to be worthy. Everybody can’t go to the temple. It is a special place.”

According to the Gazette-Journal, Bill and Jane would like to see more African Americans in the pews. Bill said,

“Our ward isn’t all white now. We’re there and there are other blacks that go there on a regular basis. We’re all happy being there.”

I dunno. Is it me or does it sound like there are still some racial problems remaining in the LDS Church?

  • After twenty-five years Bill Moon is the only black man who has ever served on the High Council of his stake?
  • A lot of people have never seen a black person go to the temple because (it’s implied) blacks are generally not worthy?
  • Bill and Jane’s ward isn’t all white now?

Poor Bill and Jane. Twenty-five years after joining the LDS Church in search of racial integration and almost twenty-seven years after the Church’s promise of spiritual equality for blacks, they remain an anomaly.

About Sharon Lindbloom

Sharon surrendered her life to the Lord Jesus Christ in 1979. Deeply passionate about Truth, Sharon loves serving as a full-time volunteer research associate with Mormonism Research Ministry. Sharon and her husband live in Minnesota.
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